Cycling can be something you do recreationally to get out, get fresh air, and get exercise. It can also be something you do instead of taking a car as your primary form of transportation, or perhaps your weekend transportation.
If you have a baby or toddler, you might wonder how soon they can join you on your bike rides.
Many people ride with their babies and toddlers, but safety is a top priority since more than 49,000 bicyclists sustained injuries in accidents with motor vehicles in 2012 alone.
When you’re riding alone, safety is a concern, and that concern grows enormously when you’re riding with your young child.
With safety as the main consideration, the following are tips and things to know if you’re going to cycle with your baby or toddler.
Ways a Young Child Can Ride With You
There are a few options you have for your child to ride your bike with you. The first which is often the initial step for younger children is a child bike seat. For the most part, state laws dictate your child needs to be at least a year old to ride in a bike seat, and of course, must always wear a helmet.
Most bike seats for children will attach to the back of your bike, and they can typically hold kids who are up to 40 pounds.
There is a high back, so it provides support for the shoulders, neck, and head of the child.
Carriers can make your bike more challenging to maneuver, so you should practice in safe areas with little or no traffic. Also, if you fall, your child is going to fall.
The next step-up is a bike trailer. Bike trailers work well for kids who are up to six-years-old, and they are stable and fairly easy to steer and maneuver. If you fall and you’re using a bike trailer, your child isn’t going to fall.
There are a few risks with this option, too, though. First, when a child is in a trailer, they are low to the ground, so they’re not as visible to cars around them. They’re also close to the exhaust of any vehicles around.
Once your child gets a bit older, many other options will allow you to bike together including bikes with training wheels, balance bikes, and tandem bikes.
Regardless of the specific way you plan to bike with your child, you shouldn’t bike with a child younger than 12 months old.
There should never be a situation where your child is on a bike or in a bike trailer and not wearing a helmet.
If you were to have an accident, a helmet could provide a lot of protection, which is important because a child’s skull isn’t as thick as an adult’s.
Don’t choose a sporty helmet with pointy ends—choose a round one that can also help cradle the child’s head if they lean over.
Choosing a Bike Trailer
If you do opt for the bike trailer option, how do you choose one that will be right for your family?
There are a few main things to keep in mind.
First, you want a trailer that’s strong and durable but also lightweight. Aluminum is a good example of a product that makes for a good trailer structure.
You need to ensure your bike is compatible with the hitch on the trailer you choose, and some people opt for trailers that can pull double-duty by converting into strollers.
A trailer should have a harness system that will prevent your child from crawling or falling out and look for a trailer that has a suspension system.
Your bike needs to be equipped to handle a trailer as well. For example, you will need to ensure your brakes can handle the additional pressure, and your gears should be able to cover hills with the additional weight.
Even if you’re a very experienced biker, adding a baby or toddler to the equation can change things quite a bit.
Start slow and get comfortable with biking with your child. Go somewhere that isn’t going to be near cars or a lot of other cyclists and just get a feel for what it’s like.
Don’t jump into too long of a ride or put yourself in a situation that’s too challenging.
Plus, you have to account for the fact that kids aren’t likely going to be able to deal with a long ride, so keep it short and fun in the beginning.